Asian Americans Advancing Justice - LA

Building upon the legacy of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center

SAFE Project Highlights Unique Needs of Domestic Violence Survivors

Thursday, August 25th 2016


From left to right: Paula Mitchell, Loyola Law School; Dr. Parmotia Chattorak, KITT University; Ayano Wolff, Advancing Justice - LA; Marilyn Tran, Center for the Pacific Asian Family


LOS ANGELES - This past summer, Ayano Wolff, Staff Attorney with Asian Americans Advancing Justice-LA’s Survivor and Family Empowerment (SAFE) Project, was a featured speaker on a panel discussion called “Silencing India’s Daughter: A Look at Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Crimes in India & the U.S.” The event was generously hosted by the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers LLP in downtown LA, and was organized by the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Los Angeles County (APABA) and the South Asian Bar Association of Southern California (SABA-SC). Nearly fifty individuals attended the event.

The other distinguished panelists were Dr. Paromita Chattoraj, Associate Dean (Academics) at the KIIT University (India) School of Law, and Marilyn Tran, Outreach and Education Coordinator with the Center for the Pacific Asian Family (CPAF). The panel was moderated by Professor Paula Mitchell, Executive Director of Loyola Law School’s Project for the Innocent.

The evening began with the showing of highlights from the moving BBC documentary “India’s Daughter,” a film covering the brutal 2012 gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old medical student named Jyoti Singh. The shocking details of the crime sparked demonstrations and protests throughout India. Though the film was and currently is still banned in India, the media response to the film changed the conversation and even steered new policy initiatives on rape and other sexual crimes in the country.

The panelists focused their discussion on how crimes against women (like the one featured in the film) occur because violence against women can be so pervasive in some communities that it seemingly becomes part of the culture. The panelists discussed their experiences with trying to address these issues, and what efforts are underway in their respective organizations to educate and provide resources to those in need.

“In the Asian and Pacific Islander community.  Unfortunately domestic violence survivors often fail to report rape or abuse, even after they enter into a shelter and are no longer living with their abusers,” said Ayano Wolff. “The survivor may not want to report these crimes, in order to protect the abuser’s immigration status or their own (which may be tied to the abuser’s status), or because they are financially dependent on the abuser.”

In addition, she explained that survivors sometimes also wrestle with the added fear that the state will take away their children, for failure to protect them because they remained with the abuser after the first domestic violence incident. The situations that SAFE Project clients face can be incredibly complex.

Moreover, many Asian and Pacific Islander domestic violence survivors face an additional challenge - that of language. While California courts do provide free interpreters for limited English proficient litigants at the hearings on domestic violence restraining orders, the process is difficult to navigate. There is no consistent procedure employed by different courtrooms for a litigant to request an interpreter. For example, one judge may require that an interpreter be requested a minimum of 20 days before the hearing, while another judge may require 30 days.

Advancing Justice-LA is hard at work on increasing the free legal services available to these vulnerable clients, and will eventually seek the help of both attorney and non-attorney volunteers to increase their capacity to serve. “The SAFE Project is in the process of expanding our Temporary Restraining Order clinic, and we encourage anyone who would like to assist, especially if you are bilingual in an Asian language, to become involved,” Wolff said.

If you are interested in volunteering with the SAFE Project at a future Temporary Restraining Order clinic, please contact Advancing Justice-LA Pro Bono Director Christina Yang at


Advancing Justice-LA's helplines prioritize assistance to low-income persons in the following areas of law: family, immigration, public benefits, employement, housing, and civil rights. 

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Our mission is to advocate for civil rights, provide legal services and education, and build coalitions to positively influence and impact Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders and to create a more equitable and harmonious society.